FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IR #2012-07
February 14, 2012

CONTACT:
Erika Monterroza
Dean Fryer
(510) 286-1161

Internet: www.dir.ca.gov


Oakland Fire Department joins DIR, Cal/OSHA to launch initiative aimed at reducing confined space fatalities in California

Oakland –The California Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) today launched a confined space awareness campaign, with assistance from the Oakland Fire Department, to educate the public on the risks associated with working in a confined space.  The news conference included a demonstration of confined space rescue training that Oakland Fire Department conducts on a regular basis.

“We are holding this event with the Oakland Fire Department to highlight the importance of taking appropriate safeguards in the workplace whenever a worker enters a confined space,” said DIR Director Christine Baker. “California is a leader in workplace safety and health. This is another area where we are leading the way in raising awareness of a critical safety hazard.”

A confined space fatality occurred in Napa at Ancien Wines, Inc. last April. The assistant wine maker was transferring red wine from one tank to another, when he was overcome by nitrogen and argon gases inside the tank. He was later found unresponsive six feet inside the tank and was pronounced dead that evening. Another confined space incident which resulted in two deaths occurred in October at Community Recycling in Lamont. Cal/OSHA’s investigation into that workplace fatality is ongoing. Last year, seven occupational fatalities occurred as a result of confined space hazards in workplaces across the state.

“Employers must have a plan in place so that their workers can safely enter and exit these potentially hazardous areas,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “Serious injuries and fatalities in confined spaces are preventable with proper safeguards in place. Employers need to know that simply calling for emergency services is not sufficient when seconds count to save lives. A rescue plan must be established and implemented before any worker even enters a confined space.”

Today’s news conference is part of a newly launched campaign by Cal/OSHA to raise awareness of these hazards, to ensure that employers know their responsibilities and employees are aware of confined space hazards and follow safe work practices. Confined space hazards occur in multiple industries, and employers frequently are unfamiliar with the risks of working in such hazardous environments, or do not follow proper safeguards.

“As firefighters, helping anyone who may be in danger will always be the first priority for us.  We feel that in working with DIR and Cal/OSHA, we have a distinct opportunity to illustrate the dangers of working in a confined space to the entire State of California,” said Oakland Fire Department Chief Mark Hoffmann.  “Calling 911 will get us to respond after an emergency has occurred. However, taking appropriate steps to assure employee safety before you go to work in a hazardous environment will hopefully negate our need to respond while safeguarding workers and assuring that everyone goes home safe at the end of the work day.”

The Oakland Fire Department has 8 hours of training scheduled with fire crews on Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb. 18.

Cal/OSHA has posted confined space hazard materials on its website www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/confinedspace.  A public webinar will take place for employers, employer groups, worker advocates and others on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 10 a.m. Information on how to register for the webinar is posted on this page.

Future training seminar, online webinars and other outreach programs will also be held throughout the year to help educate employers become aware of the risks inherent in working in confined spaces and necessary steps to prevent injuries and deaths. 

For more help on working safely in confined spaces, contact the Cal/OSHA Consultation Service toll-free at 1-800-963-9424.  Also visit www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/consultation.html for more information.

Employees with work-related questions or complaints can call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757. 


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